Anthony Jay is Still Funny

Anthony Jay, half of the comic genius writing team behind Yes, Minister, reflects on his fears that he and Jonathan Lynn would end up like Gilbert and Sullivan: Still putting on plays after they had lost their creative touch.

His article includes a passage that shows he has little to worry about:

Most misprints are simply irritating, but just occasionally they have a touch of inspiration. We had a printed hymn sheet for our school carol service which contained a visually startling image with the couplet ‘As they offered gifts most rare / At that manager rude and bare.’ My own personal favourite, however, comes from a BBC transcript of a speech I once gave on Radio 4. I had quoted a line from Clough, ‘Say not the struggle naught availeth,’ and it appeared as ‘Up the struggle, naughty bailiff.’ It makes you wonder whether the naughty bailiff was in a relationship with the rude and bare manager.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans and drugs. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and scholarly articles, and has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Guardian (UK), the San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area, he is usually in London, where he is an ad hoc policy adviser to the national and city government, an honorary professor of psychiatry at Kings College, a senior editorial adviser to the journal Addiction, and a member of The Athenaeum. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area or London, he is usually in Washington D.C., where he serves as a frequent science and policy advisor to federal agencies, and where he has served previously as an appointee to a White House commission and several Secretarial task forces. From July 2009-2010, he served as Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area or London or Washington D.C., he is usually in the Middle East, where since 2004 he has volunteered in the international humanitarian effort to rebuild Iraq’s mental health care system. This work has taken him to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to teach and consult with Iraqi health professionals and policy makers.

8 thoughts on “Anthony Jay is Still Funny”

  1. I have always heard the Choral section of Handel’s Messiah taken from Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep….” as the query, “Are we like sheep?”

    1. We sang about “Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear” (I think someone even wrote a children’s book about Gladly).

  2. A classic is in the Catholic prayer, the Hail Mary: “Blessed art thou amongst women”.

    I thought for many years I was the only one who, as a child, recited: “Blessed art thou, and monks swimmin’.”

    Later, I found that possibly thousands of others made the same mistake. But, even worse, where I lived in the West of Ireland had a retreat house for the monks of the Redemptorist Order, whom we saw regularly swimming in the bay. In my imagination, these were those very monks, whose swimming appears in Mary’s prayer.

      1. Yes, I never read it, or even opened it, but teh likelihood is Malachy made the same mistake as did a lot of others.

  3. Not as comic, but I remember many of my schoolmates beginning the Pledge of Allegiance with “I pledge of allegiance …”.

    Given the creepiness of the ritual, I suppose it’s comforting to think that few children actually parse it for *meaning*.

  4. Not sure about this story but it concerns a child asked to draw a Nativity scence. Her drawing had all Jesus’ family, but also a large, fat man. When asked she said “That’s Round John Virgin”. From the words of Silent Night (“… round yon Virgin Mother and Child …”)

Comments are closed.